The Turkish government has decided that it can score nationalist points by launching a vocal campaign to recover ancient Anatolian artifacts from foreign museums. Over the last year the Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism has resorted to ever-more aggressive measures, from threatening to suspend the excavation licenses of foreign archeological teams to blocking the export of museum exhibits. Last month, for instance, the ministry announced that it would not issue export licenses for several dozen museum pieces due to be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As a result, important exhibitions—Byzantium and Islam at the Met, The Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam at the British Museum, and The Ottomans at the V&A—have either had to scramble to find alternative artifacts in non-Turkish collections or delay the exhibitions altogether.
“It’s hard to see this as anything other than blackmail,” says one Western museum curator, who requested anonymity because she still holds out hope for improved cooperation with Turkey in the future. “To threaten international archeological efforts as a way of forcing the return of disputed artifacts is absolutely unethical,” as is the “disruption of exhibitions designed to improve international cultural understanding.”
Kind of a bit of whining on the part of the foreigners, IMO. But then, I wonder what the Turks would do if the Europeans pulled out completely?